Off the bucket list: We went whale watching
The biggest mammals of this planet roam the seas around the Azores Islands and they can be seen if you go whale watching in Terceira. For many visitors an encounter with one of these massive creatures is the high light of their visit. Not a surprise if you imagine they can reach up to 33 meters (about two city buses in line). Even more fascinating that these diving cows feed their 300 ton body with merely krill and and some other petite proteins they filter out of the water.
After being on Terceira for three years, it was about time for us to say hello to our neighbours out there. And man… what an introduction. We meet our captain early in the morning of in the harbour of Angra do Heroísmo. The crew must be three espresso’s ahead of me and brief with full enthusiasm about the whale trip we are about to make. Which species of whale and dolphin can we expect, safety and of course code of conduct on how to approach this animals. The marine biologists speak with tremendous respect for this creatures and explain us we are a guest in their territory, so let’s be on our best behaviour.
We make ourselves comfortable in the spacious boat and have a great view over the historical city of Angra do Heroísmo when we leave the island behind us. I feel lucky.
After an hour the crew get’s jumpy… Blue fin whale ahead, the largest of them all. It is fantastic to see the effect this has on everyone; even the experienced crew and of course myself not in the last place. It is buzzing. We spotted a female with a calf. – The mothers tend to stay in the garden between the islands, while the dads have the tendency to migrate (ow, how typical).
The excitement of getting closer, the waiting to reappear after a dive and then the feeling of a impressive creature swimming in front of you. When they gently reach the surface they blow out air and water of their nostrils and it just feels big. You have to hear this.
I am happy with the image of whale skin I have been able to make from the deck of the boat, but I realise that it doesn’t match the true experience by a single bit.
If I can give one advice to future whale watchers; don’t get too stoked on getting that famous Whale photo. If you are not a professional with a lot of patience and a proper zoom lens, you will have a lot – a l o t, of blue pictures with a grey stripe. And I can tell you, peeping through your view finder, hiding behind your device, you miss the real deal. So, at some point, put your camera down, feel the experience and buy a postcard.
Of course I went for the famous shot as well and got home grey stripes and some close-ups of whale skin, which you see here. Curious if I can follow my own advice next time, I guess not.
We made the experience with Ocean Emotion, one of the operators based in Angra do Heroísmo. Although we have no comparison with other captains, we would highly recommand this organisation. The smiling captain, the contagious enthusiastic marine biologist who was still in awe of the sightings we made, they give us a great day and we learned a thing or two. The crew of Ocean Emotion treat the animals with great respect, like keeping their distance and not to hang around too long.